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The perfect fit: How to land a sync (part 2)

Tip Published Sunday 22 July 2018

For a songwriter, having a song used in film, television or advertising can prove highly valuable. As we’ve discussed previously, synchronisation, or sync, occurs when music is combined with visual media, and can be a great source of both revenue and exposure. So just how do you land an elusive sync? We hit up some publishers and sync agents for the inside scoop.

Jen Taunton, who runs sync agency Midnight Choir, says her view on how unpublished writers can access sync opportunities has changed over the years. While in the past she would have suggested songwriters just look online for contacts and start sending out their music, she now recommends unpublished writers work with a sync agent.

“Having a sync agent pitch and negotiate your copyright (so that you can spend more time writing gem songs!) is absolutely worthwhile. Also just playing shows, being active, having an online presence - including having your music feature on blogs - can help.”

Fellow sync agent Tyler McLoughlan of The Sound Pound has some advice for pitching your music, which is valid regardless of whether you’re pitching to a sync agent or direct to a music supervisor.

“You need great songs, professional recordings and a professional approach,” she says. “It’s boring to receive a cold email with a Dear Sir/Madam approach, five separate download links with no track titles, 16pt Rockwell Extra Bold green font and a line about how syncable someone’s music is.”

“There’s a billion articles online to read about how to get your music sync ready and how to pitch – so read them first and get your house in order. Remember that a human with a full inbox is on the other end and you need to make it as easy as possible for them to actually listen to your music.”

Tyler also has some more practical tips for maximising your chances of landing a sync:

  1. Have instrumentals available
  2. Know who controls the rights of both the publishing and sound recording and be clear and upfront about this. Are there any samples? Are there any co-writers who have a publishing deal?
  3. Know where your music fits. If you’re writing epic instrumental post rock, research the type of uses that Mogwai attract for instance so you have a better handle of where to pitch your music. You can find this info easily online by reading through credits and looking at sites like Tunefind.

If you have a publisher, they’ll do the heavy lifting when it comes to sourcing syncs - it’s a core part of their business.

“Our sync and licensing team make use of their longstanding relationships with the country’s leading creative agencies, TV networks, production houses and music supervisors to help in creating opportunities for our writers,” says Damian Trotter, Managing Director of Sony/ATV Music Publishing Australia.

“Leveraging the scale of the combined Sony/ATV and EMI Music Publishing rosters, we are able to open new doors and build on the success of previous synchronisations with these partners and content producers. As a truly global business, we are in daily contact with our affiliates around the world, particularly our sync team in LA and NY, who have an unparalleled record in delivering fantastic placements for our Australian roster.

“To be honest, their deep knowledge of the music of our local roster takes me by surprise at times and they are landing film, adverts, TV and games uses, literally on a daily basis.”

So what does the future hold for sync, and where can we expect to see opportunities arise in the future?

“Video games, virtual reality and new forms of audio-visual technology,” says Jen. “Eleven years ago when I negotiated my first sync licence, we had ‘internet’ as a media that sat at 10% of the overall fee. Things are vastly different now. Not only is internet a multi-platform media, but the reach can be wider than standard television.”

Tyler agrees that there is a lot of movement in the digital space.

“Online TV series are picking up momentum, though the quality and music budgets vary wildly,” she says. “I know loads of writers who are doing banks of music for things like fitness apps.”

“Many brands are also creating in-house online-only productions which can be a great way for indies to start the sync ball rolling. In these cases, it’s always so important to understand the parameters of the music licensing use before approving in order to maintain the long-term value of the copyright – will giving this song to a brand (who often ask for perpetual online use) impact future opportunities? If it’s a killer track and the budget/usage terms are not great, it may be worth holding out for a better opportunity. As always, if in doubt – ask someone in the know!”

Jen also says the way in which music is being licensed is changing.

“There are now more places for supervisors to source music than ever before, which has led to a very competitive marketplace,” she says.

“As an example, in advertising, the shift between value of band to brand VS brand to band is significant. Brands can offer a platform to reach a wide audience. Bands can offer brands access to their fans. A good music supervisor, sync agent or publisher will endeavour to balance the value of each and make the sync happen.”